Plea hearings set in Compton slaying

August 05, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Two Illinois women are scheduled to appear today in Morgan County Circuit Court for hearings on proposed plea agreements in the stabbing death of a Morgan County businessman, court officials said.

The trial of one of the defendants, Tonya Teresa Thomas, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed pending her hearing, officials said.

In plea agreements, defendants agree to plead guilty to a charge in exchange for a sentence negotiated between their lawyers and prosecutors.


Thomas, 23, of Marseilles, Ill., and Christina Bess Richardson, 23, of Mendora, Ill., face murder, conspiracy and robbery charges in the death of Harry Theodore Compton, 54, the former owner of a Berkeley Springs trucking company who was stabbed five times at his home in the Merrywoods subdivision late on the night of March 17.

Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney David Savasten said Monday he couldn't discuss details of the proposed plea agreements but that he isn't willing to accept a reduced charge of manslaughter.

The hearings are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. before Circuit Judge David Sanders, who must approve the plea agreements.

The two women were arrested in Martinsburg early on March 18 after a high-speed chase with police who had tried to stop Compton's 1997 Ford Mustang near Shepherdstown for a loud muffler.

West Virginia State Police have said that Compton met Thomas and Richardson in Florida in the weeks before the slaying and that the two women had been staying at the Berkeley Springs Motel before he was killed.

Police said at a preliminary hearing March 25 that a man had driven two women to Compton's house the night of the slaying. The man said one of the women told him they were going to the house for money, police said.

A Morgan County grand jury later indicted the two women on charges of murder, criminal conspiracy to commit murder, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit armed robbery, grand larceny and criminal conspiracy to commit grand larceny.

Savasten said a first-degree murder conviction would carry a life sentence. Second-degree murder carries a maximum of 10 to 40 years in prison.

"I would love to see them sit in jail for the rest of their lives," said Sonia Andrews, one of Compton's five children. She said she had been consulted about the proposed plea agreements and had agreed to them, but is not satisfied.

"Would you be satisfied with anything like this if it was your father?" she asked.

Richardson's attorney, David Camilletti, declined to comment on the proposed plea agreement.

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